Sunday December 16, 2018
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Women, do the math and own those five days

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By Swara Bhaskar

I skulked home one afternoon from school in a particularly muggy hot Delhi summer month and spent the day cursing fate that I was born a girl. I was 14 years old, in class ninth and had just discovered that my period, the first two awful days (!), were going to coincide with the two days of the annual Leadership Training Camp (LTC) that all class monitors were eligible to attend

The LTC was an exciting and prestigious camp, which only elected student representatives of each class and two nominees were invited to, where through a series of interactive games and sessions with teachers and guest lecturers, students learnt the values of leadership. I had hoped to attend the camp for some years and finally that year I was one of the elected class monitors.

I was excited and bouncing my way through the school corridors till the tell tale stain showed up and all joy was deflated. I spent the afternoon sulking at home. In the evening, my father came home from work. (My mother at the time was pursuing her Ph.D course work in New York, so my father and I, out of sheer necessity, had developed a fairly candid relationship about matters of menstruation!)

He enquired after my long face, and I told him I had to skip the LTC which was the next and the day after. “Why,” he asked. “Because I am starting my period tomorrow,” I answered.

“So?,” he asked

“So I can’t go,” I said. “Why,” he asked again. “Because!” I said, “It’s going to be my first two days…”

“So?” He persisted. The ‘why so’ game was getting to me. “Papa” I snapped. “I can’t be running around playing the games and doing rigorous activities during my ‘down time’.”

“You mean you are physically or medically incapable of doing physical activity at this time?” My persistent father continued to interrogate.

“Oh God, Papa, why don’t you understand? It’s irritating and awkward. What if something happens” (Something was the unspeakable horror that plagued all young girls and women and probably still does, through their entire fertile years)

The fear of ‘something’. Read: What if the tell-tale stain appeared! “Hmmm” Said my father thoughtfully, “Let’s work this out exactly. So these two days you will skip LTC. Then next month again, in those two days you may have to skip something else. So every year, two into twelve is twenty four days of skipping.”

He went on. “You are fourteen now and will probably have periods for the next thirty years, so that’s twenty four into thirty. Seven hundred and twenty days. That’s 17,280 total hours of missing out on things you want to do in life. Only because you were scared that ‘something’ may happen.”

I was stumped. The math seemed accurate and the logic solid. For want of words, I made a face. My gruff father, cleared his throat, “Look your mother would deal with these things better and would know better. I’m a man but it seems a little ridiculous to waste so many precious active days and hours over something that is natural, and happens to half the world population at some point in their life every month.”

He continued in the same vein. “It’s your body and it’s a natural process. Own it instead of hating it or fearing it. And own these two or three or five days. They are as much yours as the other days of the month. But then again, I’m a man. I don’t know about these things.”

I made another face, and stuck my hand out. What, he asked. Give me Rs.150.

Why, he said? “I have to buy sanitary pads, what else, I have to pack for tomorrow”.

Thanks Papa, You taught your daughter a precious lesson that day, to own her body. It’s a natural process and we must own those five days in the month, like every other moment in our life. A lesson I have been applying till today, be it when I have a shoot or have to attend an event.

It’s incredible that sanitary pad brands in India highlight the importance of menstrual management and hygiene that encourages us girls to be confident, unstoppable and not treat those five days as taboo. Seriously girls, just do the math. (IANS)

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Trump Can’t Deny Birth Control Coverage: U.S. Court

The case became more complicated after the Trump administration last month issued new birth control coverage rules that are set to supersede those at issue in the lawsuit before the 9th Circuit.

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birth control, contraceptive
A one-month dosage of hormonal birth control pills is displayed in Sacramento, Calif. VOA

A divided U.S. appeals court Thursday blocked rules by the Trump administration that allowed more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control.

The ruling, however, may be short lived because the administration has adopted new rules on contraceptive coverage that are set to take effect next month and will likely prompt renewed legal challenges.

Thursday’s ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concerned changes to birth control coverage requirements under President Barack Obama’s health care law that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued in October 2017.

States were likely to succeed on their claim that those changes were made without required notice and public comment, the appeals court panel said in a 2-1 decision.

USA, birth control
A man stands outside the main door of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals building in San Francisco. VOA

The majority upheld a preliminary injunction against the rules issued by U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam last year. It, however, limited the scope of the injunction, applying it only to the five states in the lawsuit and not the entire country.

Another federal judge also blocked the rules, and her nationwide injunction remains in place.

An email to the Justice Department seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Obama’s health care law required most companies to cover birth control at no additional cost, though it included exemptions for religious organizations. The new policy allowed more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing free contraception to women by claiming religious objections. It also allowed any company that is not publicly traded to deny coverage on moral grounds.

The Department of Justice said in court documents that the rules were about protecting a small group of “sincere religious and moral objectors” from having to violate their beliefs. The changes were favored by social conservatives who are staunch supporters of President Donald Trump.

Reproductive Rights, abortion, women, birth control
A community health worker holds up contraceptives during a lecture on family planning at a reproductive health clinic run by an NGO in Tondo city, metro Manila. VOA

California filed a lawsuit to block the changes that was joined by Delaware, Maryland, New York and Virginia.

“Today’s decision is an important step to protect a woman’s right to access cost-free birth control and make independent decisions about her own reproductive health care,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

‘Economic harm’

The states argued that the changes could result in millions of women losing free birth control services, forcing them to seek contraceptive care through state-run programs or programs that the states had to reimburse.

The states show with “reasonable probability” that the new rules will lead women to lose employer-sponsored contraceptive coverage, “which will then result in economic harm to the states,” 9th Circuit Judge J. Clifford Wallace, a nominee of Republican President Richard Nixon, wrote for the majority.

Reproductive Rights, abortion, women, birth control
Newer Contraception Tries to Engage Men. VOA

In a dissent, 9th Circuit Judge Andrew Kleinfeld said the economic harm to the states was “self-inflicted” because they chose to provide contraceptive coverage to women. The states, therefore, did not have the authority to bring the lawsuit, said Kleinfeld, a nominee of Republican President George H.W. Bush.

Also Read: To Diversify The Industry, Apple Pledges To Train More Women

The case became more complicated after the Trump administration last month issued new birth control coverage rules that are set to supersede those at issue in the lawsuit before the 9th Circuit. Under the new rules, large companies whose stock is sold to investors won’t be able to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage.

Wallace said the new rules did not make the case before the 9th Circuit moot because they are not set to take effect until January. (VOA)